Riding Tall by Kate Sherwood and a Elegant and a Sturdy Côtes du Rhône

RidingTallLGI was VERY excited to read this book!  Like I mentioned in my review of The Fall (the prequel to Riding Tall) I had never read Kate Sherwood’s work before that book. After reading about Mack, Joe and his brood, I fell in love with her characters. Mack and Joe were so dear, in such need of one and another and, yet so lacking in communication abilities, it’s very hard not to root for them! We meet these boys again some months since they have begun their relationship. Joe has taken in the two neighbor girls whose parents died in a fire recently. He feels responsible for not stepping in earlier and letting things get so bad in that home, he feels responsible for not getting them out of the fire faster, he feels responsible for not being able to give Mack more time…He feels responsible for pretty much anything that is happening anywhere. Joe is a caretaker, if anything goes wrong, he puts the blame on himself. It’s noble and it’s something to respect, but being the partner of someone who has to be everything to everyone isn’t easy. Mack is so in love with Joe,  and Joe with Mack. They are trying to make a go of things but, it’s just hard. Once Joe decides that he will take in the third little girl affected by the fire who has suffered brain damage and needs constant care without consulting anyone…Things get a little too real.

These two men gave me a run for my money with the angst, I needed that glass of wine BAD by the time they really got into things. I needed something delicious and awesome to keep up with what Joe and Mack were dishing out. My pick is an incredibly delicious and sturdy  Côtes du Rhône wine from the Chapelle St. Arnoux winery. This wine is so good, I can’t even focus on what I like best. It is smooth as can be, tasty, well rounded and just wonderful to sip. It’s about $11 a bottle which is pretty darn good for what you get.

Riding tall

Now back to my delightfully angsty duo…So yeah things are STRESSFUL. Mack is going back to Toronto for modelling gigs. He feels like he needs to be making money on his own, he doesn’t want to be Joe’s kept man. He also feels like he gets in the way at the ranch. Joe is there trying to do a million things at once, but won’t ask for help. He won’t incovenience Mack with any duties…So Mack insead of feeling like a partner, like the person giving Joe the respite he neeeds, he feels like one more burden on the man he loves…And Joe, bless his heart. The man is THICK as a lamp post, and NOT IN THE FUN WAY! He just cannot give in, and ask for help. He is guilty all the time. It seems like nothing that happens could ever not be his fault. He is terrified of scaring Mack off by letting him take on any the many duties in their household…It’s a hot mess.

The thing I liked about this book is that things were REAL. Just because Mack and Joe were madly in love (which they were!!) didn’t mean  they would magically become well adjusted people with no issues or hang ups…They wanted each other, but they were who they were. Joe was stuck in his role of martyr, of taking on too much. Mack wanted to be better and more mature, but he still had his insecurities. His entire adulthood he’d been in a career where everything pretty much depended on how he looked, his emotionally manipulative ex had not helped matters. He had doubts on whether Joe could really see him as a PARTNER. Joe in his head was resistant to letting Mack do anything in the house, with the fear that he would get fed up with the doldrums of country life and run off to the city…Oh these two needed so serious communications counselling and a kick in the butt!!!

I was wringing my hands like crazy. But it worked out. It was a rough go, and Mack had to put his big girl pants on in order to save his relationship. Joe had to get his large head out of  his ass, and accept that he couldn’t actually do EVERYTHING on his own. They got it done though, and they did it with the help of their family. There was drama to be sure, but they ended in a good place.

Again a very pleasant read from Ms. Sherwood, enough sexy to keep things exciting, a lot of drama to keeps things interesting, heroes who were endearing even at their most infuriating, and a band of secondary characters (human, canine and equine!) who made the novel that much more interesting.

Not sure if we will get more from Mack and Joe, but I am glad I got to visit with them again so soon!

Riding Tall is available here.

Hope you enjoy the book and the wine. I promise they are both worth your time.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

My Heartache Cowboy by ZA Mazxfield…Roasted Poblano Hummus and New Mexican Cracked Wheat Salad.

heartache cowboyMy Heartache Cowboy by ZA Maxfield, the follow up to My Cowboy Heart which came out last year, takes the words CONSENTING ADULTS, to a whole new level. I for one respect the hell out of her, for deciding to write Jimmy and Eddie’s story the way that it needed to be written.  Jimmy tells us his, and Eddie’s story in the first person, and we meet up with them just as Eddie has taken Jimmy out of the J Bar Ranch and to friend’s cabin, in the middle of the night to force him to stop drinking cold turkey. Jimmy is so angry at this betrayal, he doesn’t even think he has a drinking problem. Something IS wrong though…First Crispin coming in and changing everything about their lives, now their boss was a gay man, a coupled gay man. Eddie who apparently has been GAY this whole time is out too…And Crandall, the owner of the J Bar, the ranch’s heart and soul, has passed away…It’s too much. Can they blame him for needing a little bit of liquid comfort?!

But Eddie seems so in need to have him sober up, it’s like he’s desperate for things to be how they were…Truth is, he’ll do anything for Eddie. So despite the fact that he is more than a little resentful about the situation, and more than a little angry at this friends, he tried go with it. He’d do anything for Eddie.

hummus and salad zam

For these cowboys I wanted to make something a little more like a snack, since they liked to…play around a lot *ahem* and it’s nice to have stuff to snack on when one is worn out…So to speak. *grins* Also due to the theme of the book, there will be no alcohol on this one. I made a Roasted Poblano Pepper Hummus and a New Mexican Cracked Wheat Salad which goes great with some pita chips, and avocado chunks or even on a bed of romaine lettuce. It’s wonderful as a lunch or afternoon snack. Now that we’ve got food worked out, back to our boys.

SO! There they are in a cabin that belongs to Eddie’s “friend” (more like fuck buddy from the eyeful Jimmy got! He might have been drunk, but he’s not BLIND), and things are a getting a little too fucking real. Jimmy is sick and confused, he wants a drink like nothing else, and the whole time he looks at Eddie, and he sees so much worry and disappointment that it makes him want to give up. Also he’s finally coming to the realization that he has to face up to who he really is. His past, it’s messy and full of hurt, there is so much he has never gotten of his chest. But know this news, the fact that Eddie is GAY. He must do something with that information. But things get messy really fast between them, and they end up having to ask, Don, Eddie’s friend/lover for help. That is when things REALLY get interesting.

This book was for one thing, VERY VERY sexy, the erotica was YUMMYLISCIOUS. It was very purposeful in terms of prompting things to evolve. For another I loved that this book challenges a lot of the taboos that we have, even as WAY outside of the box romance readers. Eddie and Jimmy, they’re complicated. They’ve been with each other for so long, they are partners in many ways. However their age, what they do for a living, and their personal histories has kept them from being open with each other about sentimental things. They are STUCK. They can’t go forward, and clearly if things don’t change their friendship, their BOND will be destroyed. By Jimmy’s addiction, by Eddie’s insecurities…So many things, they just can’t get past…They need a catalyst, something to help them wade through all those years of not being able to be open with each other (or even themselves) about how they felt.

Don, he’s a surgeon, a wealthy man and good man. He comes into the picture and it’s intimidating for Jimmy. He knows Eddie in ways, Jimmy never hoped to. The thing is Don brings to the surface all the things he didn’t know how to admit about himself…Both sexually and emotionally. Don comes into their lives (no pun intended!) to lubricate things between Eddie and Jimmy, and the result is they finally find a way to TALK to each other. They find a way to move on from being scared and angry with each other and to FINALLY go for what they want. There is heartache, and  impasses, but they get there, in their terms, in their way.

The threesome angle is going to put off some people, but I really hope most readers see it for what it is. Consenting adults finding ways to build connections, friendships that bring happiness to their lives, without doing themselves or others any harm. I think Z.A. Maxfield has really done a fabulous job of advancing the concept of “romance” here, and presented us with a story that really challenges us with the notion that “a love story needs not follow as script, because every heart is different, every soul has its own map, and how two people find their happy ending SHOULD resonate with their own life story”. Jimmy and Eddie had a hard road to love, they knew loss, and had given up on finding love in the light for their own lives. Only when they saw it happen between Malloy and Crispin, did it actually become a possibility, and even then it was a regretful realization. So yeah, in the end to me, this might not be a comfortably laid out love story for some, but I think, it’s genuine and COHERENT for these two cowboys. I BELIEVE in their happily ever after.

Once again, fabulousity to the max, thy name is Z.A. Maxfield. My Heartache Cowboy is available for purchase here. I hope you give this story a chance, and go into it with an open mind and heart. It’s a beautiful and hopeful story.

Roasted Poblano Pepper Hummus

1 poblano pepper

1 14.5 oz can of chickpeas rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons of tahini

1 lime

1 clove of garlic minced

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablesppoon of fresh cilantro

5 slices of pickled jalapeno

1/4 teaspoon of cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Directions: pre-heat oven at 425, place the poblano in the oven for 25 minutes, turning it over after 12 minutes. Once the pepper is blackened on the surface take it out of the oven and put in an airtight container until it is cool enough to handle. Cut in half and remove all the seeds and veins.

pepper zam

In a food processor place all the ingredients and pulse until the hummus has the proper consistency.

hummus zam

photo 5 (1)

New Mexican Cracked Wheat Salad

1/2 cup of bulgur wheat

1 medium onion minced

1 cumcumber peeled and seeded chopped small

2 roma tomatoes seeded and cut small

1 14.5 oz can of black beans rinsed and drained

1/2 cup of corn

2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro minced

1 clove of garlic minced

1 lime

2 tablespoons of  olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon of  powdered ancho pepper

salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan put in 3/4 cups of water to boil, once water is boiling put in the bulgur wheat, reduce heat to low simmer and cover (think cooking rice), for about 15 minutes. Once the bulgur is cooked, fluff with a fork and allow it to cool. Meanwhile mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl, add wheat when it’s cooled. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

photo 1 (3)

I hope you guys try out this new book, it is wonderful and a truly touching story. I love when a book aims to tear down taboos, and it does it WELL.

 

Cheers and Happy Reading!

 

Laura

My Cowboy Heart by ZA Maxfield, Roasted Poblanos with Tofu Picadillo Stuffing w New Mexican Chile Sauce and Spanish Verdejo. Salud!

mycowboyheartThis review and recipe are WAAAAAAAY late I know! But I had a crazy last few weeks! Ok first off I want to say that Z.A. Maxfield is, has and will continue to be, for me, one of the M/M authors that will forever make me grateful to have stumbled onto this genre. The love stories that ZAM writes ALWAYS connect with me in a way that inevitably gives me a lot of joy. Her humor, and the way that she always manages to bring out so much from her characters, is a gift. Really, she is a gifted writer and I love her books.

My Cowboy Heart is not the exception here, her first book published with a more mainstream house (Intermix from the Penguin Group) and it did not disappoint. I LOVED it! It is a bona fide “Gay Cowboys” love story, set perfectly, with characters that broke my heart then put it back together, made me laugh and sniffle a bit, gave me the hot flashes (because the erotica was PRIMO) left me smiling, and certain of that happy ending…So for ZAM and her boys I needed to make something EXTRA special, so I went Southwest all the way! I made these boys Roasted Poblano Peppers with New Mexican Chile Sauce and paired it with a lovely 2011 Spanish Verdejo from Arindo winery that will mark the end to my summer of perfectly sippably delicious wines. The Arindo Verdejo is a very light white wine, with citrusy and herbal notes, reminiscent of a sharp chablis or very light Sav Blanc. I love it with spicy food, and at $9.00 a bottle you cannot do any better. But enough about that for now, on to the story.

YUM!!

YUM!!

Malloy had a pretty quiet life…At 32 he has place in the world where he feels safe,  and useful, needed, and even though his childhood was not happy or good in any way, he has found family in the people of the J-Bar ranch. He came to the J-Bar as a foster kid and never left.  He is a man now, with accomplishments and a history, he has known love from Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. The owners of the ranch have been like parents to him and he’s grateful to them beyond words, but he’s always kept a little bit on himself closed off to any real intimacy of closeness. He knows that the people that you love you most are the ones that can live the biggest holes in your heart when they let you down…People leave.

The aloof, “I am an island” thing has been working pretty well for him too, whenever he needs to scratch and itch he heads to Albuquerque, he doesn’t need a woman to be happy, what he needs is to work in that ranch and feel solid.  That’s all well and good riiiiiiiiight until Crispin Carrasco comes to work to the J-Bar and little by little EVERY DAMN THING that Malloy seemed sure about goes right out the window.

Malloy was pretty sure he was straight and interested in living an uncomplicated life. The thing is Crispin was like this ball of energy that put ALL of Malloy’s senses in high alert. EVERYTHING about Crispin made Malloy want to know more, see more, touch more…And that’s the other thing! He WANTED Crispin in a way he hadn’t really considered before, more than that Crispin was someone he wanted to protect and make happy…Something about Crispin seemed so fragile, like his outer shell could be broken so easily. Malloy was reluctant, but he finally let go and once he did that then…THEN he REALLY understood that the reason why he hadn’t needed before, WANTED so bad before, was because he hadn’t found the thing that his body craved.

Crispin is a complex guy, free and loose on the outside, but with deep deep scars inside, he was hurt bad as a child and then orphaned. He knew abandonment like Malloy did. He had the same kind of hurt inside him. Those things that change you deeply and make you feel that no one could possibly understand just how damaging some pains could be, how long it could stay, how much it could haunt you. The thing was that Crispin was not willing to let go of what he found in being Malloy’s, and once they went THERE all they could do was to fall. FALL HARD. It made for fabulous romance.

I loved the secondary characters in this one and was very glad to see that the two other wayward cowboys at the J-Bar are getting their own story.

So, this novel like all of ZAM’s has all the classic components of a great romance…Strong main characters, but just a little broken, lots of humor and sexyness, and a happy ending that when it comes feels warranted, and well deserved.

I am glad that ZAM explored the Western theme for a novel, because I loved the setting here, I appreciated how deeply she went into the New Mexican geography and how is really shapes the hardiness and strong substance of the men that live and work in it.

I am very much looking forward to the next installment and hoping for lots more from Ms. Maxfield.

My Cowboy Heart is for sale on Amazon.com. The second story for the J-Bar boys is available for pre-order here.

Now moving on to the food!

cowboy heart food and wine

Roasted Poblano Peppers with Tofu Picadillo

4 Roasted Poblano Peppers (Directions below)

1 Large potato

1 zuchinni

1 pack extra firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 packets of taco seasoning (I used Simply Organic Southwest Taco)

1 medium onion chopped

1/2 tablesppon of cilantro

1 garlic clove minced

Directions: For the poblano peppers. Put the peppers in the middle rack of an oven preheated at 400F, after 10-12 minutes turn the peppers, leave them in the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until the skin is blistering and softened. Take them out, put them in a bowl, and cover with cling wrap until they are cool enough to remove the skin, seeds and veins.

For picadillo, take the taco seasoning and add two tablespoons of water and mix into the cubed tofu. Let it marinade for about one hour.  Meanwhile peel and cube potato. Blanch the cubes in boiling water. In a skillet add one tablespoon of olive oil and sautee onion,, garlic and zuchinni for a few minutes then add tofu and potatoes. Cook together for about five minutes at medium heat, at the end add the cilantro. Stuff the peppers with the picadillo and to with the New Mexican Chile sauce.

New Mexican Chile Sauce

1 driend New Mexican Chile seeded and deveined

2 dried Guajillo Chiles seeded and devained

1 dried California Chile seeded and deveined

1 teaspoon of agave nectar

1 can of diced stewed tomatoes

1/4 cup of fresh cilantro

1/2 medium onion chopped

1 garlic clove

1/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or soy milk)

1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Directions: Put hot water in a bowl, and put the dried chiles to rehydrate for about one hour. After the chilies have soaked put a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sautee onions and garlic. After about two minutes out in the chiles and stewed tomatoes and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the milk and stew it for another 10 minutes. Once it was boiled take it out of the pan let it cool and the blend it to make a smooth sauce. Add lemon juice at the end.

I hope that the book and the food are as good for you as they were for me!

 

Happy Reading!

 

Laura

Interview with ZA Maxfield for My Cowboy Heart Blog Tour

My Cowboy HeartHello ALL! I AM SOOOOOOOOOO excited for today! ZA Maxfield came out with her wonderful cowboy love story My Cowboy Heart released this past Tuesday through Inter Mix Publishing. This is exciting on various fronts. New publisher for ZAM, COWBOY, a series and did I mention cowboys? As always ZAM did not only not disappoint even a little bit, but managed to raise the bar in what I will be expecting from gay cowboys stories in the future.

As part of the Blog Tour for My Cowboy Heart Ms Mazfield has graciously stopped by my little corner of the blogeshere to answer some questions about her new book, M/M Romance as a genre, cowboy friendly foods, and her future plans for the men of the J Bar Ranch! So without further a do…An Interview with the most fabulous ZA Maxfield!

The Tipsy Bibliophile: In the past you have explored a wide range of storylines in your books, but you have rarely gone for the more “traditional” themes. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to go for a cowboy story?

 ZA Maxfield: I’ve always loved Cowboy stories. Cowboys come from the larger group of archetypes that include knights and wandering samurai. They have a code of honor. Sometimes they’re taming the land, sometimes they’re protecting the innocent. Sometimes it’s cowboys versus society. Versus progress. They’re a dying breed. It makes for great drama.

 tTB: What surprised you the most about how this story developed?

 ZAM: What surprised me the most is that once I got rolling, I was hitting on the same three themes that appear in all my books: Romantic love, family, and redemption. This shows up in everything I write, even when I try to totally switch things up. I was talking with a friend on the phone and we decided it’s my holy trinity. I’m a three-note musical scale.

 tTB: To me this book is one of your most “True Blue” romances, just full of all the stuff that makes a great romance story, but at the same time there were very heavy subjects surrounding the main characters. Do you think that is what makes the M/M genre so unique? That you can still have a classic romance despite characters who are not only flawed but have been broken.

 ZAM: I don’t necessarily think that’s unique in m/m. My favorite romance writers (of course this may be a personal taste thing) write hopelessly flawed characters. The joy is seeing how they’ve written this very flawed man or woman a happy ending. I think the guy or girl who is damaged goods is what romance is all about. We love broken characters way more than undamaged ones.

 The books that I can’t put down are the ones with characters I must see succeed in love, in life. I need for them to get their happy ending. I guess that’s why I write the types of books I write as well.

 I’m driven by empathy. When I feel for the character, when I can relate to what makes his yearning more poignant, I’m in palm of the writer’s hand so to speak. As a writer my goal has always been to write classic romance novel with gay characters. It’s tough to do, because so many traditional romance plots include inherent gender-based power imbalance. But I strive!

 tTB: This blog is a bit different in that I pair my book reviews with wine and food that I think would go well with the story. For Crispin and Speed I’ve made stuffed roasted poblano peppers with a New Mexican chile sauce and a delicious Spanish Verdejo…What would the guys think of my food choice for them?

 zAM: I think my Cowboys would be delighted to pull up those scarred wooden dining chairs to sit down and eat hearty. I do think that Speed might enjoy a beer more — he’s not big on wine, whereas Crispin will probably try to coax you out of that old bottle of Respoado Tequila you’ve been hiding.

 Oh, and can I come for dinner too? That sounds absolutely delicious!

 tTB:  So what is next for the cowboys at the J-Bar Ranch? Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect from the next book in the series?

 ZAM: Oh, my gosh. What can I say. Jimmy is in big trouble. He’s been drinking like a fish and Eddie and Boss Malloy have finally had enough. In one way, they’re only looking out for him, you know? What happens if Mrs. Jenkins decides to sell up? Who’s going to hire some drunken cowboy?

 Maybe Eddie goes about things all wrong by getting Jimmy drunk and shoving him into his truck and taking him to an isolated mountain where there’s nothing to do but dry out and watch the snow fall.

 Jimmy’s not happy. Eddie’s in over his head trying to help him. Eddie calls his friend Don, who loaned him the cabin in the first place, and asks for help. Problem is, Don has a thing for cowboys, and as far as he’s concerned, if one cowboy in his bed is good, then two must be better.

 Eddie and Don might be exactly what Jimmy needs. Or they might be more than he can handle… STAY TUNED for My Heartache Cowboy! Coming in January…

Well there you have it folks! I had a lovely time reading ZAM’s responses to my questions, she really is one of my true favorites in this genre. My Cowboy Heart is a book that lives up to ZAM’s solid reputation, a fantastic romance, with great humor, fabulous erotica, awesome secondary characters and a solid story to back it all up. If you have not read it, go and GET IT NOW it is on sale at here at Amazon.com

As for the next installment in the series, Jimmy and Eddie’s story My Heartache Cowboy, is availabe for pre-order on Amazon.com

I’ll end it here for now, but stay stuned, because later today I’ll be posting my review for this awesome book with the recipe for the poblano peppers which are AMAZING! Thanks again to ZAM for stopping by and to you guys for taking the time see what I am up to!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura